PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and doctors are urging women to keep up with their gynecological health.
More than two-thirds of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer do not survive. The high mortality rate can be attributed to vague symptoms and late detection.
“The symptoms are really just nonspecific abdominal symptoms, abdominal fullness or early satiety being filled up very easily when you eat, you know, you’re taking very little food to fill you up, changing our bladder habits,” said Ascension Sacred Heart Oncologist Dr. Thomas Johnson.
There are many factors that can cause ovarian cancer such as an irregular menstrual cycle, fertility issues, and heredity. Women who have relatives with ovarian cancer should schedule genetic testing. It’s one of the only preventable measures women can take against the deadly disease.
“We now have genetic testing called germline genetic testing,” said Dr. Johnson. ”When we’re looking at a woman’s genes and every cell in her body, germline genetic testing, which has really become mainstream in oncology, but in ovarian cancer it’s particularly important because we’ve identified a number of genes.”
Early detection is key when treating and surviving ovarian cancer. It’s curable if caught in stages 1 or 2, but most women don’t detect the cancer until stages 3 and 4 due to vague or no symptoms. Also, screening technology for ovarian cancer does not exist like it does for other forms of cancer.
“For example, a Pap smear is screening for cancer of the cervix. Mammograms screen for breast cancer. There’s really not a good screen for ovarian cancer,” said Panama City Gynecologist Dr. Gregory Morrow.
The news is not all bad. The American Cancer Society said ovarian cancer mortality declined by 2% a year during the early 2000s to more than 3% a year by 2020. Experts attribute that to decreased incidence of the cancer and improved treatment.